Troops prepare for Katrina duty
DENVER – Colorado National Guard soldiers loaded gear and supplies into trucks Friday as they prepared to join 17,000 troops from around the nation streaming into the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast.”I’m expecting to see a lot of people who are desperate, a lot of people who are in need, yet are taking advantage of the situation,” said Sgt. Angel Romero of the 220th Military Police Company, which will help restore order in the New Orleans area amid reports of looting and lawlessness.Under orders from Gov. Bill Owens, about 100 members of Romero’s company and about 400 members of the 169th Field Artillery Brigade, all of whom volunteered for the mission, will leave in a series of convoys starting Friday. The trip is expected to take three days.Owens and Maj. Gen. Mason Whitney, adjutant general of the Colorado National Guard, met with some of the departing troops Friday. Owens, who told some they might be in Louisiana for at least a month, thanked them for their service and said he was confident they could perform their mission.Owens said state officials are assessing Colorado’s capability to house any of the thousands of residents who are being evacuated from the deprivation and chaos the hurricane left behind.Owens’ deputy press secretary, Mark Salley, said the assessment was prompted by a contact from the Texas governor’s office. He said that was not unusual, because many state-to-state aid requests are routed through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual-aid agreement among 48 states.Romero said the MPs could provide first aid, secure aid stations and help local law enforcement.He said it was strange to think he would be performing much of the same kind of duties in Louisiana as he did in Iraq.”I never thought I’d see this in the states,” he said. “A suspect is a suspect regardless if they’re a Muslim, regardless if they’re an Iraqi or regardless of if they’re a citizen, and if they pick up arms against law enforcement, they’ll be treated the same.”Philanthropist Tim Gill said Friday the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado will offer a $1 million matching grant to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief.Gill, who founded the fund, said it will match individual donations from Coloradans up to $250 through Sept. 25. The effort could raise a total of $2 million for relief.Gill said the hurricane victims’ suffering is nearly unimaginable after watching murky floodwaters and debris surround their once-cozy homes.”This is a tragedy of epic proportions for the United States. It will take us years and years to rebuild,” he said.He said the people who can afford it least will suffer most.Owens, who appeared with Gill when the grant was announced, praised the effort.”This generous donation to the Red Cross will save lives and help our fellow citizens recover from this catastrophe. I urge all Coloradans to seize this opportunity to double the effect of their donations,” he said. —On the Net:Red Cross donations including the Gay & Lesbian Fund matching grant: http://www.coloradohelps.org —Associated Press Writer Steven K. Paulson contributed to this report.
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